Currents News Staff
Ten years after al-Qaeda’s attack on the Syro-Catholic church “Our Lady of Salvation,” Pope Francis visited this very place to meet with bishops, seminarians and men and women religious in Baghdad.
Pope Francis recalled the witness of faith of the 48 martyrs now in the process of beatification. He also remembered the nine Muslims who died in the attack.
“Their deaths are a powerful reminder that inciting war, hateful attitudes, violence or the shedding of blood are incompatible with authentic religious teachings,” Pope Francis said. “I also want to remember all the victims of violence and persecution, regardless of the religious group to which they belong. Hardships are part of the daily experience of the Iraqi faithful.”
He thanked the Church in Iraq for remaining close to the people.
“You and your fellow citizens have had to deal with the effects of war and persecution, the fragility of basic infrastructures and the ongoing struggle for economic and personal security that has frequently led to internal displacements and the migration of many people, including Christians, to other parts of the world,” he said.
The Holy Father used the image of a carpet to talk about the age-old historical, liturgical and spiritual patrimony of the different Churches present in Iraq. It’s a metaphor that “points also to its source, for God Himself is the artist.”
Pope Francis said that young people are the country’s hope for renewal and rebirth in the land of Abraham.
“Even though they are young, their patience has already been sorely tried by the conflicts of these years,” he said. “Yet let us never forget that, together with the elderly, they are the point of the diamond in this country, the richest fruit of the tree.”
At the end of the meeting, Pope Francis wore this stole made by the women of Qaraqosh. With it over his shoulders he prayed the “Our Father” with those present. They’re gestures of hope for persecuted Christians. Hope that “Iraq will not be the same nation” after the pontiff’s visit.
The Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako said Pope Francis’ visit has led to change.
“There’s been a big change already in the days leading up to the pope’s visit,” Cardinal Sako said. “Christians, Muslims, everyone talks about peace and harmonious coexistence. They also talk about the fight against fundamentalism and violence. It’s a very positive sign.”
That was the end of the Holy Father’s first day in Iraq as a pilgrim of peace.